Palestinians consider ICC approach over Israel E1 settler plans
ANKARA - The Palestinians could pursue Israel at the International Criminal Court if it builds new settler homes in a highly-sensitive area of the West Bank near Jerusalem, president Mahmud Abbas warned on Tuesday.
"If Israel continues with this (settlement plan), we will respond using all methods, obviously peaceful, and including the court," the Palestinian president said in Ankara at a news conference with Turkish President Abdullah Gul.
Israeli plans for the construction of 3,000 new settler homes, some of them in a strip of West Bank land called E1, have sparked a major diplomatic backlash, with experts warning it could wipe out hopes of establishing a viable Palestinian state.
"The latest announcement of the Israeli government about building new settler neighbourhoods on lands belonging to the Palestinian state in the areas surrounding Jerusalem is hostile and (crosses) a red line," Abbas said.
"We will not allow its execution as it is a violation of international treaties, especially the Fourth Geneva Convention," he said of the clause which bars an occupying power from transferring parts of its own population into the territory it occupies.
"If they chose peace they will find us ready, but if they chose settlements, especially building in E1, we will do something else."
Israel's E1 plans became public a day after the Palestinians won recognition as a non-member state at the United Nations, in a move which deeply embarrassed the Jewish state which had lobbied to prevent it.
The Palestinians' new-found status could potentially give them access to the ICC, sparking fears they could sue Israel for war crimes -- particularly over its settlement building.
Gul also "strongly condemned" the Israeli construction plans for E1, which sparked a wave of international criticism, urging Israel not to "play with fire."
Abbas has previously said he had no plans to immediately approach the tribunal which would only be possible after the Palestinians first sign and ratify the Rome Statute.
Abbas arrived in Turkey on Monday on his second foreign trip since the UN vote, following a visit to Doha at the weekend.
Ankara has been a staunch advocate of the Palestinian cause, but its ties with Israel have deteriorated dramatically since a deadly maritime assault on a Gaza-bound flotilla in 2010 which left nine Turks dead.